For the Week Ending March 1, 2013
A bill to augment federal subsidies for low-income individuals on the new health exchange declared dead by the House Health Care committee chair last Friday rose from the ashes this week when the committee agreed to revisit the issue. One member of the eleven-member committee who was absent for the first vote on Friday returned this week and moved that the bill be reconsidered, enabling the bill to pass on a 7-4 vote.
The bill (H.418) became controversial when a provision to impose an excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages was added to discourage obesity and to replace an equally controversial assessment on employers recommended by the administration to fund the additional state subsidies. The bill also proposes a doubling of an existing tax on medical claims over a period of time. The bill was then referred to the House Ways and Means Committee.
The House Health Care Committee also combined two “technical corrections” bills (H.107 and H.116) related to the exchange and realignment of health care oversight responsibilities within state government. The two noncontroversial bills were passed easily, in contrast to the messy committee process on the previous bill.
The Senate Finance Committee continued its deliberations on a committee bill to restructure the health insurance rate review process. Regulators and stakeholders agree that a two-step review process involving the Department of Financial Regulation and the Green Mountain Care Board created in Acts 48 and 171 were cumbersome and difficult for all parties. The Board and DFR proposed a more streamlined process where the Board would have rate approval responsibility and DFR would retain input over insurer solvency. The committee intends to vote the bill out when the legislature returns from a week-long break for Town Meeting Day.
The Senate Health and Welfare Committee heard from proponents of a bill (S.44) to require health insurers to make publicly available the requirements for prior authorizations and to define and set standards for adverse determinations. Insurers will respond when the committee returns from their Town Meeting break.
The House Health Care Committee will take up a series of bills when it returns from the break, including bills related to group health coverage for same sex spouses (H.315) and cost sharing for preventive services (H.136). They will also discuss health care budget issues and what to do with cost-shift funding.
There will be no Legislative Report next week due to the legislative hiatus next week. The next report will be issued on Monday, March 18th.
New Bills of Interest:
S.141 Introduced by Senator Mullin
This bill proposes to require health insurance plans to provide a choice of providers for vision care and medical eye care services and to reimburse providers the same amount for the same services when provided by either an optometrist or an ophthalmologist. It requires health insurers to permit optometrists to participate in vision care and medical eye care plans to the same extent as ophthalmologists and prohibits insurers from placing certain requirements on an optometrist as a condition for participation in a health insurance or vision plan.
H.418 Introduced by the Committee on Health Care
This bill proposes to establish premium and cost-sharing subsidies, a sugar-sweetened beverage tax, and a health care claims tax.
If you are interested in this week’s Legislative Committee Meeting schedules, agendas, and a listing of other meetings and activities, please visit the Vermont Legislature’s website at http://www.leg.state.vt.us/Committee01.cfm Committee meetings are normally updated daily, and are subject to change without notice. If you plan on attending, you may want to call ahead to verify the agenda.
For more information on legislative proposals, visit the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont website at www.bcbsvt.com or call Leigh Tofferi at (802) 223-6131 or Kathy Parry at (802) 371-3205. If you wish to discontinue receiving these updates or know of anyone else who would like to receive it, please call Kathy Parry or send an e-mail to email@example.com